In securing his second French Top14 trophy, Jerome Kaino added to his ‘rugby-collection of awards’ over an almost 20-year career as a professional rugby player.
Heralded for his individual skills, as well as his team-first priorities, Kaino has gone from provincial to International, to the European rugby market, in search of challenges – and he has excelled at the majority he was focused upon.
Now the Stade Toulousain champion has ended his time on the field, to sign-off on a second title in three seasons of French rugby dominance by raising the Brennan Shield as captain of the title-winning Toulouse club.
Winning the tough French domestic competition is a fine reward yet, for the externally tough flanker, his motivation has been for more than trophies or celebrity. He has turned his contract into a lifestyle choice and has done as much for the red and black of the Toulousain, as he did for another all black jersey. He has put his all into it, and as he did with his national team, rewards have followed his determined input.
Jerome Kaino wins second Top14 trophy to add to his rugby-collection
Playing beside All Blacks teammate Charlie Faumuina, and opposing Victor Vito, two men who traveled with Kaino at the International level. Then there are fellow Toulouse players, like Cheslin Kobe and senior player Yoann Huget. They will all feel similarly for the departing Jerome Kaino. A bonafide champion, in multiple leagues.
His influence during the match was more sedated than say, the 2011 RWC semifinal versus Australia but, his leadership has developed to a higher level. In a way, it matches that of fellow Toulousain Thierry Dousatoir. Leading by example, authoritative, and thoroughly respected by the opposition.
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) June 25, 2021
Debuting for the All Blacks in 2004, his term for New Zealand ran for the next 12 seasons. Ending on the highest of highs, after claiming back-to-back Rugby World Cup wins, some will recall how he struggled at first before cementing his spot from 2009 until 2015. Like so many, the rigours of emerging from the New Zealand Sevens team, the Under 21 World Championship, through Super Rugby with the Auckland Blues before exposure on the biggest stage of them all with the All Blacks.
A tough introduction though, one where his attitude and desire was questioned. Even by the likes of Keven Mealamu and Jerry Collins yet Sir Graham Henry persevered, and by 2008 ‘version 2.0’ of Jerome Kaino was heralded by his peers. According to one Richie McCaw, the All Blacks skipper who said in Kaino’s book My Story: “Jerome played well in that final. If you went through everyone we could all say we didn’t play as well as the week before, but we did what we had to. There were a lot of things on defence you might say are mundane but if we hadn’t done those things the result could have been different. He was exactly the same as the rest of us – we all gave everything.
“In the couple of years before the World Cup he had established himself as a real rock, especially leading the defence, and that’s what he provided during the tournament – that physical element.”
Collecting Trophies over All Black/professional career
Playing his final game in New Zealand in July 2018, his response to early controversy is a fine example of professionalism, as well as growing maturity and family values that have stood well in the American Samoa-born player. Collecting trophies too has been his calling card.
Like McCaw said, his admiration was earned. “At the end of it, he was the player for us who provided the steel, especially in the last couple of games. It was probably summed up in that tackle on [Digby] Ioane in that semifinal, the way he manhandled him. There are other examples but that is one that sticks out.
“He was bloody unlucky not to be named player of the tournament, really. He was for me.”
By the end of the 2020/21 French Top14 season, Kaino stood victorious holding the shield. Earned, and a final example of his world-class status. From Saint Kentigern College to Stade Ernest-Wallon, the same man matured into a fine example of a rugby player and a person. Those qualities were wholly applauded by many, after Toulouse added the French Top14 title to their 2021 Heineken Champions Cup title.
And Jerome Kaino can be content with the legacy that he has created across a fine intercontinental rugby career.
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